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GAOL-BIED                                            151
III
At last the circus seemed to fold up its tents and depart—how, I
never quite realized, for nobody went through the formality of say-
ing good-bye. I was left alone with Mrs. Naidu, the chief performer.
4 What shall we talk about ?' she asked.
'Gaol, if you don't mind.'
" Why should I mind ? I've nothing to be ashamed of. And
some of it was very entertaining.'
We will skip the whys and the wherefores of the mass Congress
arrests. (They took place on August 8th, 1942.) They will be
the subject of endless debate, and when history gives its final
verdict it will record an emphatic vote in favour of the British
Empire. If it had not been for those arrests the whole of India
would have been plunged into bloody chaos within a week; the
Japanese would have swept through the gates carrying fire and
slaughter, and the war would have been indefinitely prolonged-
Mrs. Naidu, naturally, does not agree with this view. She main-
tains that the majority of Congress were innocent lambs, who had
no subversive intentions; and as far as she herself h concerned
she may be quite right. We will not go into all that. It is more
interesting to consider her merely as a cultured, charming woman,
swept into gaol as the result of her convictions.
It was in Bombay, on the night of August 7th, 1942. A few
hours earlier there had been a great Congress meeting, attended
by all the leaders, from Gandhi downwards. This meeting had
been marked by a number of fiery speeches ; there was thunder in
the air, and Mrs. Naidu, with feminine intuition, was the first to
sniff that thunder.
'Late in the evening,5 she said, 'I had a hunch. I said to Patel,1
fcCI believe we're going to be arrested.'* "Don't be silly," he said,
v* Why ?" "I don t know/' I said, "but I'm sure we are. And
very soon too; to-night or to-morrow." He kept on asking me
why, and I remember I said, "Because the British always get in a
panic if we even begin to blow our noses/'
* Well,' she continued, 'that night, or rather, early the following
morning, it happened. I went to bed as usual, and then the hunch
1 Sardar Patel, the Party Boss, and virtual dictator of the eight Congress ministers*